Right after Jesus tells the parable of the lost sheep, where the shepherd travels miles upon miles to find the one wayward sheep in order to gather it back with the rest of the flock, he tells the church to forgive one another and offers guidance on how to live in community together because, "For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them." It seems that we find God in gathering together, adding one to another, noticing God in the seams. Whether this is adding one musical note to another, creating a hymn of praise, or in placing green beans next to the country ham on a paper plate for a child who is hungry, we find God in the gatherings.
We find God in the seams because there are new possibilities. There is the possibility for compassion and empathy, patience and forgiveness. There is the opportunity for laughter to spread and for the comfort of tears. There is the possibility of community and of service. None of these are possible without two or three gathered.
One of the gathering places I visit often is the file cabinet in my office. Over the years, articles from magazines and photocopied pages from books have been placed into manila folders and labeled for future use. As I thumb through those folders, I often think about what I find in the seams.
Within the files are pages of notes and copies of newsletters, but what about the seams between the folders? There is something between those gathered files, begging for questions to be asked and prayers to be spoken. I cannot explain it, except that those files make what is normally abstract, concrete and plain.
What does it mean that the file labeled addiction is next to the file for Advent, a time for waiting and hope? The folder for authenticity sits next to the one for Ash Wednesday, where we remember that from dust we have come and to dust we shall return. A file with notes about awareness, which could be considered a spiritual discipline, is beside a file labeled baptism, which is water that wakes us up to walk in the newness of life.
Within the seams, or the gatherings, there are questions to ponder and connections to make. What can we say of such connections, looking at these files that sit side-by-side, as we think about the intersections between them?
- Beauty and Bonhoeffer
- Confession and Contentment
- Conversion and Courage
- Discernment and Disciple
- Doubt and Doxology
- Ethics and Evangelism
- Family and Fear
- Generosity and God
- Good Friday and Gospel
- Hospitality and Humility
- John the Baptist and Clarence Jordan
- Kingdom of God and Lament
- Lent and Listening
- Love of Enemy, Love of God, and Love of Neighbor
- Maturity and Maundy Thursday
- Meekness and Ministry
- Parable and Parenting
- Poverty and Power
- Repentance and Responsibility
- Restraint and Revelation
- Salvation and Samaritan
- Table and Technology
- Vocation and Wealth
The alphabet is not organized in order to facilitate divine discovery, but our eyes and minds and hearts can discover something within the seams of these gatherings. What do we find when we ponder the possibilities, as we think about the intersection between life and faith? It is like the gathering of the books of the Bible, as they speak to one another and with one another, pointing towards the presence of God and the gift of grace. We find God when two or three are gathered, and we look within the seams to see more than we first noticed.
If all else fails, we can look within the seam of neighbor and God in order to discover what is holy. Within the interactions between neighbors, or strangers, we find the possibility for grace, as we do when we look in the seam between God and creation, where the love of God pours forth from that seam into our lives, particularly as we gather with two or three others.